REVIEW: The Magicians, S3E2 – Heroes and Morons

The third season premiere of The Magicians introduced a new quest, which ‘Heroes and Morons’ is meant to begin in earnest. And while the episode opens on a beautifully designed fairy tale voiced over by Quentin (Jason Ralph), the rest of the hour fell short of the expectations set by last week. Every major story arc pushed forward to a degree, but it felt like the writers took less interesting paths to get there for once.

When it takes four of you to find one battery.

While Eliot (Hale Appleman, who we’ll get to in a minute) is busy questing for the first key in Fillory, Quentin and Julia (Stella Maeve) are busy looking for a shortcut to more magic. That’s where Mayakovsky – the worst teacher ever – comes in. Josh’s (Trevor Einhorn) social media talents come in handy once more when an Urban Freakfest channel on Youtube leads them directly to a hedge witch bar where dozens of club goers witnessed him turn into a bear using what must have been some powerful magic. That video sets off a cop procedural style plot that takes up most of ‘Heroes and Morons’ and doesn’t really prove all that insightful.

Kady (Jade Tailor) is roped into helping because Penny’s (Arjun Gupta) super cancer is still hanging over her head, but the two lovebirds don’t get very much screen time to deal with that fact. Even the tension between Kady and Julia due to last season’s conflict is mostly glossed over in favor of interviews with club bartenders and the love-struck Emily, whose terrible romance with Mayakovsky was never peak television to start with. The hunt for the professor’s batteries, which contain the last bits of known magic outside of Julia’s finger trick, does lead to some humorous moments with a child’s fantasy dinosaur come to life and a sex orgy in the park – but story really builds to a crescendo and it feels like many of the scenes end without explanation.

The most intense sequence was Quentin stopping a terrified Professor Lipson, Mayaovsky’s ex and the creator of the batteries, from jumping off a building after experiencing the hopelessness of a world without magic. But even that clue leads The Magicians right back to where they began: at Emily’s apartment and without a battery to their name. Kady making off with it in order to save Penny was the most interesting element of the story, but ‘Heroes and Morons’ ends without a clear resolution on that front.

Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) is on a journey that parallels Quentin’s throughout ‘Heroes and Morons,’ but The Magicians is thus far staying mum when it comes to answering questions about the lamprey who is searching for her. When she buys a pet cat, viewers can assume it is some kind of defense against the lamprey, and that guess is mostly confirmed when the poor kitty explodes after going berserk near the end. But aside from that, her reunion of sorts with Quentin is incredibly understated, and they part ways once more without any real hint of where they stand. The final scene of Quentin presumably being possessed by the lamprey certainly suggests that the group is in for an interesting ride, but we’ll have to wait until next week for the specifics.

Magic cries when the King and Queen are separated.

The Magicians tends to shine most brightly in Fillory, and ‘Heroes and Morons’ is no exception. However, the plot does take a bit to kick into gear and the first quest appears deceptively simple. When Eliot announces to his court that he’s voyaging to the outer islands to collect taxes, it’s merely a cover for his quest to find the first key. But Fillory is in desperate need of money, so how is Margo (Summer Bishil) supposed to manage in the meantime? Furthermore, Eliot is sent off on his quest with Fern (Brittany Curran) by his side while Margo must stay back and tend to the kingdom. Separating the show’s greatest duo seems like a mistake, but Margo still gets the most poignant moment of the night when she asks, “What’s the difference between a live hero and a dead moron?” before begging Eliot to be smart rather than brave.

We are finally introduced to the Muntjac ship, which Tick proclaims is made from sentient trees and therefore has a very tricky personality. Unfortunately we don’t get to see much of it in ‘Heroes and Monsters,’ except for when the vessel hilariously throws Tick overboard for calling it an “ass-ditch.” Perhaps the most tantalizing part of the entire storyline is the Fairy Queen bringing Fern out of her delusional state of misery by sending her daughter along for the voyage. The only problem? Eliot and Fern’s two month old baby is now fully-grown and a spy for the fairies. While Eliot snidely remarks that only a land ruled by television gods utilize such an obvious trope, it’s obvious he won’t make a move against the girl (named Fray, which is short for ‘frail human’) just in case.

Upon reaching After Island, the location of the first key, Eliot is confronted by news of a monster that kills and terrorizes the villagers. The time to be a big damn hero came sooner than expected, and appears to rival his need to obtain the golden key from Father Poe. It might have behooved ‘Heroes and Morons’ more to spend time uncovering this mystery rather than the one about Mayakovsky’s batteries, but instead Fray conveniently tells Eliot all about Shadowbats based on her Fairyland knowledge. So Eliot is able to save the day, prove the monster is an illusion, and take possession of the key all in one scene. Though it’s a somewhat underwhelming adventure, it does lead to a heartwarming moment between the royal parents and their potential daughter who has been brainwashed by fairies. When Fray tries to learn just why Eliot needs the key more than taxes, Fern takes gleeful pleasure in chiding her not to talk back to her father. Eliot joins in by telling her to go to her room, and they celebrate actually being a family.

With one key in the heroes’ possession, the second chapter of the book emerges. Hopefully the next quest The Magicians undertake is more exciting than this one.